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High Water, High Risk

Reminders for staying safe on Lake Tahoe this summer
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Tahoe’s high water levels have raised concerns about the potentially destructive effects of both natural and man-made (boat wakes) waves upon other vessels, structures, and shorelines. Tahoe City resident and former oceanographer Roger Huff explains that one gallon of fresh water weighs a little over eight pounds, and a few hours of wind can create deep-water waves each containing hundreds of gallons of dangerous and powerful water.

After a long winter season, seemingly skipping spring, summer in Tahoe has arrived and is welcomed with an overflowing Lake Tahoe. As the attention shifts to the lake it is encouraged for boaters to be respectful of the local boating ordinances during this summer’s high-water season. These include the noise and the 600-foot “no wake” zone regulations.

“Dangerous waves can also be produced by boaters who ballast down [weigh down] the sterns of their wake makers and tow their water toys near smaller vessels, buoy fields, marinas, or piers,” Huff said in an email to Moonshine Ink. “That two-foot-high wake can double in height in shallow water, and its energy increase four-fold.”

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has set a 600-foot “no wake” zone around the entire shoreline of Lake Tahoe with a speed limit of 5 miles per hour. This is set in place to minimize the impacts of motorized boats for residents, visitors, and wildlife. The 600-foot buffer is also set to protect those who choose to recreate without motors, (paddleboarders, kayakers, and swimmers). Boaters should also be mindful of the areas marked by white buoys. These are areas that indicate underwater obstructions.

According to the TRPA, it is also required that boaters are equipped with the proper safety equipment including: life jackets, fire extinguishers, a whistle, a bell or horn, a visual distress signal or flare, a ventilation duct allowing for proper ventilation of inboard gasoline engines, and a backfire flame arrestor for inboard engines.

“Operators may be legally responsible for damages caused by their wakes,” Huff said “Boaters who feel they are exempt from such things should also bear in mind that they are not invisible.”

Be careful out there!

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April 12, 2018